“Is that an Alison engined P51?” I was asked the other day as a client looked through my portfolio. “Yes,” I said rather hopefully. We were looking at one of my P51B paintings. I knew for sure that the P51D had the Merlin engine fitted, so it made sense that the B model had the Alison. How wrong could you be? Three days wrong… and counting, actually.
The client was keen to have an Alison engined P51 and to my recall, the only obvious difference between a B model and the earlier A (fitted with the Alison) was the big fin-like upper nose intake. “No problem,” I thought, “I can add an intake quickly enough to my B. And I was right, it wasn’t a problem… it just took three days (and counting…) to sort it out!
I could have just slipped an upper nose intake on my P51B but that would be like glueing antlers on a Shetland pony and calling him Rudolf. You see when you really compare a P51B to an Alison engined P51A, the only parts of the fuselage that are unchanged seem to be the tailplane and the birdcage canopy! This was going to be far from a quick nose job, it was full-on whole body surgery.
Virtually all other parts of the fuselage on the A were re-designed in the P51B, in particular, the nose and the under-belly air scoop. If I’d have thought about it, you just can’t swap engines on a sleek machine like a fighter without making some changes to the surrounding metalwork. Unsurprisingly, sourcing good rivet research photos for this area took more time than actually rendering them accurately on my illustration.
This is an earlier shot of work in-progress, before the rivets that fix the nose skins were placed accurately.
The radiator scoop, such an intrinsic feature of the D model, is dramatically narrower in the A and has a substantial affect on the overall profile of the airframe, making it look longer and more streamlined. Unlike on the D, the intake wraps around the belly more snugly and in fact is a much more pleasing shape when seen front-on. It smiles back at you. This radiator scoop also affects the shape of the wing root on the leading and trailing edges, while many other fuselage panels have slight differences in skin and access panels.
So… are all P51′s basically the same? I guess on the surface we humans are all the same, but if you could place the great Mahatmar Ghandi next to Hulk Hogan you’d start to see the small differences.